Skip to main content

Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka (1943-2017)




Leaf through a scrapbook of career-defining moments in pro wrestling, and you’re sure to see one that has inspired and awed so many. It is an iconic moment that made young boys say, “I want to be a professional wrestler.” That instant, among so many, sparked the resolve of people like Mick Foley, Tommy Dreamer, and The Sandman to begin their journey into the squared circle.

That moment happened on October 17, 1983, at Madison Square Garden, when Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka leapt off the top of a steel cage in a match against “Magnificent” Don Muraco. It’s a scene you see in the clips that have opened many WWE shows, in books and videos on the history of pro wrestling, and in many other places. In many ways, that moment captures the essence of what wrestling is: to suspend disbelief, to stretch the limits of the human body, to impress and wow a crowd who came to watch modern gladiators.



And few wrestlers fit that description more than the legendary Superfly himself.

Jimmy Snuka was born in 1943 in the island of Fiji, starting out as a bodybuilder before meeting pro wrestlers who worked in the South Pacific. His early career was marked with success in the territories, winning multiple singles and tag titles in the 1970s before he made it to the World Wrestling Federation in 1982. Starting out as a villain under the tutelage of the legendary Captain Lou Albano, Superfly won over WWF fans with his graceful leaps and athletic maneuvers, then rarely seen in a sport dominated by big brawlers and burly grapplers. It was the Madison Square Garden leap that made him truly a fan favorite, and was named Wrestler of the Year by the WWF in 1983.

A year later, Superfly was embroiled in a memorable feud with the late great “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. In one of the most well-known segments of Piper’s Pit, Hot Rod nailed Superfly with a coconut at the back of the head, and started a long feud between the two. After a stint away from the WWF, Superfly returned in 1989 to feud with the likes of the Million Dollar Man and Mr. Perfect.

Superfly was also the first man who fell to what was to become the most legendary record in wrestling, when he was pinned by the Undertaker in WrestleMania VII. Snuka slowly faded away from the wrestling business over time, coming back for sporadic matches as a WWE legend. As a testament to his popularity and legendary status, Superfly was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1996.

Outside the ring, though, Jimmy Snuka was plagued with controversies and checkered histories: which include addictions, charges of domestic abuse, and a third-degree murder case for the death of Nancy Argentino (one that happened in the same year that he made that legendary leap). It was a story that was, for all intents and purposes, left to the wayside by many wrestling fans. However, the case not only apparently cost him his spot on that rank of greatness, but also continues to haunt those who were left behind.

Many other things have caught up with Superfly, including dementia and cancer. After years of ill health and courtroom assessments, the murder charges against Jimmy Snuka were dismissed, as he was deemed not mentally fit to stand trial.

Just this morning (PH time), Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka passed on at the age of 73. He is survived by his wife, Carole, and seven children, including former WWE Tag Team Champion Deuce (of Deuce N’ Domino) and current WWE Diva Tamina Snuka.

As a professional wrestler, Jimmy Snuka helped pave the way for many of the gravity-defying displays of athleticism that many of us have now come to expect as ordinary in pro wrestling. While many have jumped further and leapt higher over the years, it’s the feats of Superfly that have come to stand the test of time. For those with an appetite for wrestling history, it's perhaps because he was one of the first. For those hurt by his checkered past, he may have been one of the worst. But for those who live for those iconic moments, however, he was one of the best.

Photos from WWE

Comments

Trending This Week

The Smark Henry RAW Report (12/11/17): Kane We Stop It With The Rematches, Please?

31 Days of Wrestling (12/13/17): The DIY Implosion

31 Days of Wrestling (12/12/17): Tetsuya Naito vs. Kenny Omega (G1 Climax 27 Finals)

31 Days of Wrestling (12/9/17): Jinder Mahal Wins the WWE Championship

31 Days of Wrestling (12/4/17): Billy Suede vs. Jake De Leon